The small structures on the roofs occupy a special place in my heart. It was at the Belfry (a dome with a bell) of a renovated school from 1865 that I took my wife Alicia on our first date. We talked about life, watched the sun go down, drank a glass of wine and we felt like we were at the top of the world. Nearly three children and 10 years later, I think the belfry had to play a role in my good fortune.
As I drive along the country roads, I see the domes first in the distance because they create a jagged horizon above the barns. These are small buildings perched at the top of the roofs of tall buildings. In agricultural structures, their function is primarily to ventilate and sometimes bring light into the hay, but no one can deny that they have been set up with thought and care. When you see a dome at the top of a barn on a rural road, you should watch it very carefully. Often, it's the only place where builders, 200 years ago, have had the opportunity to showcase their design capabilities and details. The barn itself usually had to be built quickly and simply so that the farm could continue to function. On the other hand, the dome is the time spent working on the details and having fun.
The role of the dome on the roofs of American homes is long and varied. Some of my favorite lanterns (cupolas that bring light into the interior) are on neo-Greek and Victorian-style homes in the Hudson Valley. The first home designers used domes in the same way we use them today. They used them to ventilate the attics, to bring light into an interior space. They made covered rooms to see the world or protect their precious bell, and used cupolas simply as decoration for their roofs. When the domes are designed and placed correctly, it is difficult to imagine the tallest buildings without them.
The lanterns not only bring light into the houses, but they also emit a warm glow on snow-covered winter nights that look like beacons that guide us home.
From the Oxford English Dictionary
Dome : A rounded dome forming or adorning a roof or ceiling .
Belfry : The place in a steeple or bell tower in which the bells are housed.
Lantern : A Square, curved or polygonal structure on the top of a dome or a room, with glazed or open sides.
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